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May 3, 2021

Religious leaders, govt reject EU resolution: ‘Not a single case of blasphemy laws misuse reported in country’

LAHORE: Special Aide to Prime Minister on Interfaith Harmony and Middle East Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi has said the leadership of different religions and religious schools of thought in the country, as well as the government of Pakistan, have rejected the recent European Union (EU) resolution.

Addressing a joint press conference with representatives of different religions and religious sects here on Saturday, he said the EU resolution was based on ignorance of facts and false propaganda, as not a single case of misuse of blasphemy laws was reported in the country during the last six months.

Hafiz Ashrafi, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), said that difference between freedom of expression, freedom of religion and blasphemy was very explicit and clear. The laws of Pakistan guarantee protection of rights of all citizens of the country. The Constitution protects the rights of minorities living in Pakistan, added Ashrafi.

“We invite the representatives of the European Union and the US Ambassador for Religious Freedom to visit Pakistan to find out the facts. “The protection of minorities' rights is the responsibility of the state, which it is fulfilling,” added Hafiz Ashrafi.

The PUC chairman disclosed that the government of Saudi Arabia had decided to set up an 80-kanal Jamia Masjid King Salman at Islamic University Islamabad where more than 12,000 faithful would be able to offer prayers at a time. He said that was a great gift from the Saudi government for the people of Pakistan and the students of Islamic University, ahead of the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia.

Others present at the press conference were: Maulana Asadullah Farooq, Allama Zubair Abid, Maulana Hafiz Kazim Raza, Maulana Muhammad Khan Leghari, Maulana Abdul Wahab Rupari, Pastor Emanuel Khokhar, Maulana Muhammad Shafi Qasmi, Maulana Muhammad Ashfaq Pitafi, Maulana Aslam Siddiqui, Maulana Abdul Qayyum Farooqi, Qari Shamsul Haq, Maulana Qari Abdul Hakim Athar, Qari Mubashir Rahimi and others.

Ashrafi said all minorities living in Pakistan were satisfied with the laws of Pakistan. He said the blasphemy law was not being misused. Some individuals and institutions wanted to damage Pakistan's dignity, honour and relations with other nations by spreading false and baseless propaganda, added Ashrafi.

He said Pakistan’s judiciary made decisions in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of the land, adding that the instances regarding forced conversions had reduced significantly during the past months.

Hafiz Ashrafi said freedom of expression and religious freedom did not mean committing blasphemy of other religions. He said the international community should respect the sanctity of all religions. He said that for Muslims, the honour of all prophets and the sanctity of all heavenly books was part of the faith.

Ashrafi said Pakistan could not support riotous writings and hateful speeches and the entire Pakistani nation stands with Prime Minister of Pakistan over his stance regarding elimination of Islamophobia and blasphemy.

Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi said Prime Minister Imran Khan would leave for Saudi Arabia on a three-day visit where he would meet Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and political and religious leaders of Saudi Arabia and perform Umrah and also visit the Roza-e-Rasool. He said the PM would discuss practical steps on legislation regarding Islamophobia and blasphemy with the Saudi Arabia political and religious leadership and the OIC secretary general.